In the aftermath of each attack, U.S. officials linked the perpetrators to al Qaeda's North African affiliate al Qeada in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). But in the case of Benghazi, another sub-group, Ansar al-Sharia, was thought to be involved and in Algeria, Belmokhtar's splinter group, the "Signers With Blood Brigade," took credit for the attack. Complicating matters, in a statement during the Algerian crisis, Belmokhtar claimed the "blessed" operation on behalf of al Qaeda.
At a press conference Tuesday, Pentagon spokesperson George Little said that such divisions between terrorists groups in the region can be more symbolic than practical.
"I would note that al Qaeda in the Maghreb is not necessarily a monolithic group," he said. "There are different elements so it's important to bear that in mind… [AQIM] does what terrorists do: they plan and carry out attacks."